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Venture philanthropy gains steam, pushes promising science through to patients

FasterCures welcomes new additions to TRAIN program

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2015) –  Driven by the urgency to find treatments and cures for their own diseases, patient-powered foundations are often the players with the greatest incentive to make strategic, early-stage investments that accelerate medical solutions. In a sign of the growing use of entrepreneurial philanthropy across the patient community, FasterCures has announced the addition of 19 venture philanthropies into The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN), bringing the total number of participating organizations to 80.

FasterCures established TRAIN in 2005 to connect disruptive innovators in the disease research space with the vital resources, tools and relationships to catalyze development of new therapies and cures. Through the network, innovation in one disease area is translated to another in order to achieve treatment breakthroughs for all.

TRAIN organizations – such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – share a singular focus on, and a significant stake in, getting promising therapies from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside as rapidly as possible. CFF’s partnership with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which produced the game-changing drug Kalydeco, has captured the public’s attention in recent years. Many other foundations are pursuing similar pathways to patient benefit, including CureDuchenne and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, which are also investing in companies with new therapeutics, and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which is paving the way to precision medicine for the patients it represents.

Collectively, TRAIN participants fund nearly $1 billion in medical research annually, and more than three-quarters of them are partnering with biopharmaceutical companies to advance their collective goal of getting new and better treatments to patients faster. While the organizations that participate in TRAIN are individually unique, they all demonstrate an ongoing commitment to accountability, collaboration, research effectiveness, resource building and patient centeredness.

“We are thrilled to welcome new participating organizations to TRAIN,” said Kristin Schneeman, program director at FasterCures. “Like their predecessors, these patient-driven foundations are applying entrepreneurial philanthropy to de-risk translation and commercialization of research in their respective disease areas, and are responsible for some of the most transformative ideas in R&D.”

The new participating organizations represent a variety of diseases, from the well-known (such as lung cancer) to the rare (such as Prader-Willi syndrome), as well as conditions (such as spinal cord injury). All of the organizations focus on research, although they accomplish this through different models, from patient foundations to nonprofit facilitators. In addition, the organizations, while mostly based in the United States, span from Vancouver to Chicago to Edinburgh.

The new participating organizations of TRAIN are:

  • AKU Society
  • Alliance for Lupus Research
  • Beyond Batten Disease Foundation
  • Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
  • CureSMA
  • Foundation for Prader-Willi Research
  • Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research
  • Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance
  • LUNGevity
  • Myeloma UK
  • Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation
  • National Brain Tumor Society
  • National PKU Alliance
  • National Psoriasis Foundation
  • NephCure Kidney International
  • Rare Cancer Research Foundation
  • Rick Hansen Institute
  • Scleroderma Research Foundation
  • T1D Exchange, a program of Unitio, Inc.

, a center of the Milken Institute, is an action tank, determined to remove barriers to medical progress. We have only one goal: to save lives by speeding up and improving the medical research system. TRAIN is a FasterCures program that convenes dozens of forward-thinking foundations to learn from each other and share their novel solutions with the rest of the medical research system through:

  • TRAIN Central Station – The online platform for TRAIN groups and other medical research innovators to share best practices, exchange ideas and find relevant tools and resources.
  • TRAIN Inventory – A first-of-its-kind inventory designed to help potential collaborators better understand the landscape of nonprofit disease research foundations and engage in meaningful partnerships with them.
  • TRAIN E-News – A free monthly electronic newsletter that shares best practices from TRAIN participating organizations and news relevant to the venture philanthropy community.
  • TRAIN Workshops – An intensive day-long learning experience for about 50 participants focused on addressing a shared systemic or cultural obstacle that is slowing down medical progress across diseases.

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